The struggle

Over the years, I have struggled with the notion of what defines ‘discipline.’

Even the word harkens back to elementary school days of math homework, piano lessons and excruciating laps in gym class. Often accompanied by “suck it up” or “no pain, no gain,” the term discipline evoked negative, almost punitive feelings in me. Often I would start projects or activities only to find myself giving up and becoming resentful.

For example, I tried yoga classes because I thought (and was told by so many!) that it was spiritually ‘good for me.’

Many classes and five teachers later, I would cringe at the thought of doing one more downward dog. I would look at my other mat mates with envy. They seemed so focused, so flexible, so disciplined. And later I would lambast myself for being too flaky, unmotivated and just lacking ‘character’ to stick with it.

The shift

So it isn’t surprising that today I am not an accountant, no longer play the piano and the last place I want to be is in a gym.

And I’m not a yogi master. But I’m happy.

The reason is the dream. Quite by accident, it totally shifted this view of not only what it means to be disciplined but how to find my spiritual practice and calling.

For example, I have been keeping a dream journal for over twenty years, never realizing this could be a calling. I just literally followed my dreams.

Since then I have consulted individuals on dreams, been running dream groups, written hundreds of articles on dream research and the community, created dream inspired art, presented at international conferences and received not one but two dream certificates.

This sustained dream-focused work is clearly not because I have any ‘special’ insight or masochistic tendencies because, believe me, it has been a bumpy road at best.

It is because I am passionate about the process.

Discipline redefined

Physicist, psychotherapist and founder of Process Oriented Psychology, Arnold Mindell writes about this in his book Working on Yourself Alone: Inner Dreambody Work: “If your process fascinates you, you will become aware of the continuum of awareness, of the process which organizes existence. The process itself will fascinate you with its power, and this excitement creates discipline.”

This fascination, this excitement of the dream’s potential that Mindell writes of created discipline in me. And this is how a practice should be cultivated. Although it’s hard work and a challenge at times, this “belief and wonder” in the work is what motivates me to continue this warrior’s art and, even more importantly, move it into the world.

And because of my passion for the dream, it has (and will!) only grown over the years with its bold and subtle intricacies weaving in and out of my dreaming and waking life.

So what are some ways to find your practice or calling?

  • First of all, we are all individuals so what is good for one person is not necessarily good for all. So be gentle with yourself if you feel stuck.
  • Ask yourself, what moves me? What brings me joy? The beauty of this inquiry is that anything can be turned into a spiritual practice. If you love cooking or being in the garden, make it a daily practice to commune with your art and watch what enfolds. It is import be open to all possibilities.
  • If you are not sure, look to your childhood. Our younger selves were more open to the call and memories might emerge of your love for being in the water, animals or in my case, dreams.  Looking through photographs or have a conversation with a childhood friend or family member is another way to evoke those passions from the past.
  • My favorite way is through dream incubation . Simply ‘ask’ before bedtime and see what dreams manifest and inform you over time. The answers are already in there.

What do you think? Leave a comment and share your thoughts or questions.